Photo credit: Reuters

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Obamajustice at Guantanamo

Dear Mr. President,
Belkacem Bensayah and Djamel Ameziane got a taste of Obamajustice this week. The Defense Department announced Thursday that it had transferred both men from Guantanamo Bay prison to Algeria. What the news release didn’t say was that both men were transferred involuntarily, that they preferred the hell of Guantanamo to the hell of Algeria where they are certain to be persecuted or killed. Both men have been in Guantanamo since early 2002, Mr. Bensayah sent there from Bosnia where his wife and daughters still live, and Mr. Ameziane rounded up by Pakistani authorities and turned over to the U.S. military, much like 14-year-old Hamidullah Khan, who I wrote about a few days ago, another victim of America’s arbitrary justice. Djamel Ameziane is a minority Berber and fled Algeria because of persecution. That’s how he ended up in the tribal area of Pakistan in late 2001, another man in the wrong place at the wrong time, no doubt sold for the bounty paid by the U.S. on “militants,” no questions asked, and sent to Guantanamo. According to yesterday’s NYT (“Two Detainees at Guantanamo Are Involuntarily Repatriated to Algeria” p. A20), both Canada and Luxembourg were possible repatriation countries but a State Department spokesman said transfer to another country was “not a viable option.” The Center for Constitutional Rights called Ameziane’s transfer to Algeria “as unnecessary as it is bitterly cruel.” An editorial in today’s NYT (“A Bad Decision at Guantánamo” p. A20) said that even though the Bush administration cleared Ameziane for release in 2008, when your folks took over in 2009, they blocked his release to any country other than Algeria: “During a 2009 hearing, Federal District Judge Ellen Segal Havelle, told government lawyers she was ‘appalled’ at the situation. ‘I don’t know why in the world the only thing that the government can see here is Algeria,’” You campaigned in 2008 on a promise to close Guantanamo and ordered it closed in 2009 but did nothing when the hawks in Congress objected. So it remained open. In May, during the mass hunger strike, you said Guantánamo “has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law,” and you recommitted to close it. And so you will. In the cold, calculating manner of technocrats, with neither mercy, compassion nor conscience, and with arbitrary justice where any means is justified, where people are nothing more than numbers on a spreadsheet, We need our own Nelson Mandela.

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